Alex Blaze

Larry Kramer has an op-ed in the LA Times

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 20, 2007 3:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Larry Kramer, voting

Larry Kramer has an op-ed in the LA Times today called "Why do straights hate gays?" It's an interesting piece, but really not anything new. He asks the question in the title and then describes the ways in which we are oppressed - kind of a primer for heterosexuals who don't know much about the state of gay rights at this point.

Anyway, it's a good read, but I don't think that Kramer's prescription of not voting will really solve anything. He says:

Gays should not vote for any of them. There is not a candidate or major public figure who would not sell gays down the river. We have seen this time after time, even from supposedly progressive politicians such as President Clinton with his "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military and his support of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, it's possible that being shunned by gays will make politicians more popular, but at least we will have our self-respect. To vote for them is to collude with them in their utter disdain for us.
He has a point that gays being discriminated against doesn't really drive straight people to the polls to stop it. We always hear about how anti-gay folk go to the polls to vote for anti-marriage amendments and that's the reason they're cynically put on the ballot. That's because anti-gay straight folk consider it important to vote against our rights and pro-gay straight folk don't care quite as much about the whole thing. (Sorry - lots of my friends are pro-gay straight folk, but y'all really aren't getting the numbers and pressure out there in the same ways that the Focus on the Family sort do.) And GLBT votes are negligible because there are simply too few of us to actually fight that tide alone.

But removing ourselves from that equation doesn't make us more powerful. It just means that politicians will be even more justified in ignoring us. Hell, I wouldn't waste my time as a politician talking to a group that makes a point of not voting. Kramer ties voting to self-respect, sees it as a collusion with heterosexual supremacy, an endorsement of a candidate's platform. It's none of those things - it's merely a tool, one of many, to try to change the system. It's not, as many people think, the end-all-be-all of participation in the political machine, it's not going to change the world in and of itself, and it's not an expression of an opinion on anything more than "Ms. X is more qualified for this job than Mr. Y."

When we start to see it as anything more, then we're giving away our power to define our own self-respect, our power to try to change the ways in which politics work. Thinking of it as more than a tool leaves us either lethargic to do anything more or hopeless because, well, democracy doesn't always smile on the minority.

So, yes, we should vote to lay claim to the part of the democratic pie to which we are entitled. It's frustrating that our politicians have colluded with each other in what can only be described as rights fixing, but making ourselves politically minimal isn't the solution.

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Jen Jorczak | March 20, 2007 5:40 PM

You are completely correct. Not voting is NOT the answer. If you're really that dissatisfied with your choices of candidates (and you probably are--and you probably should be), then RUN FOR OFFICE.

Right on, Alex.

I know Marla will disagree with me, but usually Larry Kramer rocks. He tells truth to power. This time though, he's a little off base.

He said a lot of the same things in his speech for ACT UP's 20th anniversary. I overlooked that section of his speech in favor of the parts I agreed with, but I'm saddened to see that it is the part of the speech he's chosen to highlight.

I agree, bil, Larry Kramer is awesome. It's tgreat that those ideas that were in the op-ed weren't just confined to the Blend or queer peoples private conversations, as they always are. You can't pay for publicity like that.

I just respectfully disagree here.

Oh, no - it's great publicity. It's just his message that I think is off. I'm with Jen on this one (and you!). The only way to change society is to be part of society.

I agree with his thinking on radicalism and the need for a "gay army." But that army should vote - and vote for progressive candidates who support our civil rights. Otherwise, we're waiting on others to decide our fate for us.

Marla R. Stevens | March 21, 2007 11:26 AM

Larry is often inspirational -- and frequently right -- even if he does too often stretch the truth way too much and is a royal pain in the rear unless you are willing to treat him like a god.

The trick with Larry is to pay less attention to his specifics and go to the heart of his message instead. That's true in this case.

Of course not voting is a bad strategy. What Larry is really calling for, if you'll read both pieces carefully, is to quit selling ourselves (and our votes and other candidate support, by extension) so cheaply that we get treated cheaply in return.

We are not too small a voting bloc to make a difference. Many an election is close enough that the winning margin is within our voting numbers. In other words, we are not big enough to be a winning majority all by ourselves but we are big enough to be spoilers in an election. That's enough power that, if we would use it more wisely, we could earn more respect from politicians than we're given today.

Refusing to vote for people who will not stand with us on marriage, for instance, could put us into spoiler position. We'd have to have a lot of courage to be willing to exercise that -- to suffer someone worse winning to have the wake-up call work -- but, eventually, even the densest will go, 'Oh, yeah, them -- I guess I can't take them for granted after all.'

And there are lots of races out there with people running who will stand with us on the tough stuff -- races that, if we'd put our money exclusively there instead of selling out to the likes of all the Dems and Repubs running for Prez right now except Kucinich, we'd be growing a base of people who will not screw us when they ascend to high office heights.

And, if we hustle even more and get great people worthy of our support to run, because so many districts are gerrymandered to a T, we'll end up with whole party caucuses worth our support ere long.

So take Larry not at his word but at his heart -- that's where his strength and his sense lies.